Copper Reliefs
click on the thumbs to view the respective gallery

 Curatorial Note by Sadanand Menon


The retrospective of any artist who has consistently been at work for over five decades, is no longer about the artist per se. It also becomes the narrative of a nation, a region, a school, a style.


His retrospective then, becomes the occasion for an archaeological exploration into the multiple layers of social, historical and aesthetic accumulation that reveal themselves, as clearly as strata in stone.

As a leading contemporary modernist of post-Independence India, S.G. Vasudev's work takes us into the thick of the debates and turmoil in the sixties within the College of Art, Madras - a pioneering centre for arts education that has received the least critical attention from our art historians. The products of the Madras art movement have, thus, remained confined to the margins of the narrative around mainstream Indian art. This is an injustice that needs to be swiftly corrected.


Vasudev's work reveals the creative churn among the students and teachers at the Madras Arts College in the mid-sixties. The reputation of the school attracted students from all regions of the sub-continent - Bengal, Gujarat, Bombay, Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and, of course, Tamil Nadu itself. It helped generate its own form of inter-culturalism. And an eclectic art practice grounded solidly in the play with line and surface, significantly absorbed and integrated from prevailing practices of traditional artisans and of ordinary people on the street.

An exposure to Vasudev's collected work brings us to the centre of these preoccupations with evolving a local, native vocabulary that was, in itself, a critique of Western canons of spatialization and depth. Inspired by the critical indigenism of their mentor K.C.S. Paniker, Vasudev and a group of young graduates of the college dared to break away from the then urban conventions of modern arts practice and create Cholamandal, an arts village on the outskirts of Madras. In the mid-sixties, this was a radical move.

The subsequent five decades has seen Vasudev go through distinct periods with specific themes - Maithuna, Vriksha, Tree of Life, Tree of Life & Death, Humanscapes, Earthscapes, Theatre of Life, She and He and Rhapsody - a journey that defines his preoccupations with relationships, transience, nature and ecological concerns, the fire of desire and performative aspects of life. He is now among a distinguished group of senior Indian artists whose work is much sought after and part of many important collections.

While the artist has stayed rooted to the medium of oil on canvas and drawings, he has also made significant departures in media like copper relief and tapestry, bringing a new dynamic to the media.

This Vasudev retrospective at NGMA-Mumbai (which follows earlier ones -- at NGMA-Bengaluru in September 2018 and at three venues, including the LKA, in Chennai, in January 2019) has a distinct curatorial and design plan. Bringing together over 300 works by the artist, including a few from the collections of the NGMA itself, the exhibition maps the inner rhythms that motivate the artist's expression - much of it triggered also by his deep response to classical Carnatic music - and a sustained, spiralling resonance which, like a musical cycle, keeps returning to sama, before it spins off into the next avartana.

The exhibition design is executed by the dynamic Bengaluru-based dancer and designer Miti Desai and her mitidesignlab.




click on any thumb to view the slideshow

Cultural programmes gallery

click on thumb to view the slideshow
Pannel Discussion | 13th July 2019
Sanjay subrahmanyan and party | 20 july 2019
Pt. M Venkatesh Kumar and party | 24th Aug 2019

Media Coverage

Newspaper mid-day June 30th 2019 The artist as craftsman
Newspaper The Indian Express July 1st 2019 TALK: A Tribute to the Legend
Newspaper The Indian Express July 4th, 2019 Primeval Tales of the Earth
Online The Asian Age July 6th, 2019 Introspecting lives
Newspaper THE HINDU July 13th 2019 Transcending a rarfied world
Newspaper The Sunday Guardian July 14th 2019 Excavating the past
Newspaper The Hindu July 17th 2019 showcase
Magazine Open Magazine August 5th, 2019 Crafting the convenant
Credits ® Copyright 2008 S.G. Vasudev Arnawaz Vasudev Charities